Quo Vadis “PLM”?


For almost 20 years, PLM was considered the umbrella term for software that manages all data of products over their entire life cycle. Now all major vendors have said goodbye to this term without exchanging it for a new one. What does this mean for industrial users? And what about all the names and brands in which PLM is the core term today?

PLM stood for almost 20 years for Product Lifecycle Management. For the management of all data belonging to a product. From the idea and the requirements to design and engineering, production planning and production, simulation and testing, sales and marketing to customer service and maintenance. That, in any case, was the great demand that was associated with it. In the sendler\circle, the suppliers agreed on a common definition in long fundamental debates, which was adopted and published with the Liebensteiner Thesen in May 2004.

Right from the start, however, there was a gap between the claim that the term contained and the practice of PLM implementation and the functionality of corresponding systems, a gap that could not really be closed until today. It was mainly the mechanical geometry data of the 2D and 3D models generated in engineering that could be managed and provided here.

Data from electronics and software, from simulation and calculation, from production planning and production, from the entire order processing - they often had to be integrated via interfaces at considerable expense or did not belong to it. And the specialists in the relevant departments rarely had the feeling that PLM was the right roof for them. That's why it's still virtually impossible for the vast majority of industrial companies to implement a truly comprehensive PLM strategy. Only a few, mostly larger and financially strong companies have tried to put their money where their mouth was.

And this despite the fact that with Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, especially with the increasing use of AI and machine learning, the availability of a consistent, up-to-date and unambiguous data chain across the entire, extended value-added process has not become less important. On the contrary: Those who cannot restore data from product operations in the IoT to a PLM backbone cannot use it for many valuable purposes.

Definition page of PLM and PLMportalBut now of all times the term disappears from product and company names. It hardly appears at trade fairs anymore. You have to read and look carefully to find it as a term for the management of industrial processes.

Dassault Systèmes works with the name 3DEXPERIENCE for the entire product portfolio. At SAP, PLM is one of many topics in the extended supply chain. Siemens has swapped the company name Siemens PLM Software for Siemens Digital Industries Software and speaks of Comprehensive Digital Twin as the core of the offering. PTC has concentrated for years on the ThingWorx platform for the Internet of Things and only occasionally comes back to the term PLM.


At first glance, it is something that seems to be comparable with the development of the term CIM in the 1980s and 1990s. Some names remained like CIMdata as name of the US consulting company and CIM Database as name of the German software of Contact Software in Bremen. Now there is the company XPLM, the events PLM Europe and PLM Roadmap, my PLMportal and some other products and company names, but generally the term gradually disappears from the debate.

But on closer inspection it is different from CIM. While the term was primarily a marketing term that had almost nothing to do with reality in the industry, PLM is a term that still stands for the continuous data chain in companies. However, this is no longer the top priority of companies. It plays a not unimportant role in their digital transformation. But it is often more important which business models are developed and how companies reposition themselves in the digitally networked world.

The big difference: After CIM, many product and company names changed or disappeared because other products proved to be more important for the industry. Today, too, company and product names are changing or disappearing, but above all because the focus is no longer on selling product licenses, but on offering and marketing concrete solutions to very urgent problems. Often via the cloud.

Industry, too, is changing from customer to user

It is the change of the industry from product customers to solution users that pushes the term PLM into the background. It is no longer important with which system or tool a solution is achieved. The result is important, flexibility and scalability are important. What the provider calls his system is not important.

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Cloud Services and Big Data Analytics - the world of users is becoming ever more complex ever faster. This complexity demands simple and quickly deployable solutions. How we then call it, it will probably be more a problem of the writing guild than the problem of providers and users. Where does the term PLM go? It remains an abbreviation for some of the solutions the industry needs. But PLM is no longer an umbrella term.

For the PLMportal, I have decided not to change the name for the time being. In the definition page of the portal (see picture above) I have taken into account the change of the term under the heading "The term PLM today and the name PLMportal". That the portal is not limited to PLM in the narrower sense, my readers know anyway for a long time. Under the same name, I will continue to provide news and information that I consider relevant for engineers, computer scientists and managers in industry and for researchers in the field. In all the breadth that needs to be taken into account.

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